BIOSSAM: BIOenergy Systems Sustainability Assessment and Management

There is growing international interest in a low-carbon, green economy that uses renewable energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to stimulate a sustainable development path…
South Africa’s primary energy is supplied by fossil fuels and 93% of South Africa’s electricity is supplied by coal-fired power stations. Although South Africa has a plentiful supply of coal, there is an urgent need for increased electricity generation capacity since the energy supply has already reached crisis proportions with an estimated electricity demand of 25 to 40 GW by 2025. Although South Africa does not have mandatory emission reductions under the Kyoto Protocol, it does aim to develop a low carbon economy with a recently announced target of a 34% carbon emission reduction by 2020 and 42% by 2025. The interest in renewable energy is highlighted by recent policies such as the Biofuels Industrial Strategy, White Paper on Renewable Energy, Tradeable Renewable Energy Certificates, the Renewable Energy Feed-In Tariff as well as recent initiatives such as the Green Economy Summit.

There are several new Bioenergy interventions (policies, projects, or programmes) that are being considered and these developments must be assessed in terms of their sustainability.
Both public and private sector policy makers, decision makers, and technology developers (at the local, regional and national levels) require robust methods to guide structured assessments and the subsequent management of the proposed bioenergy systems.

BIOSSAM enables the comprehensive and holistic assessment, monitoring and management of bioenergy interventions in order to facilitate planning for sustainable development.
BIOSSAM is a strategic framework that includes a toolbox of decision-support tools for the assessment, management and monitoring of sustainable bioenergy interventions. BIOSSAM uses a participatory approach with multi-stakeholder engagement to facilitate the decision-making process.It combines public and expert opinion to enhance the effectiveness of technology transfer and adoption, and increase the likelihood of market uptake and success.

The BIOSSAM method is depicted below:

BIOSSAM uses a sustainability framework and decision support tools to ensure sustainable bioenergy interventions.

The Sustainability Framework (SF) is the foundation for BIOSSAM and it ensures that there is broad-based, multi-stakeholder engagement and participation with the intention to plan for sustainability. The stakeholders should agree on a common vision and goals and the associated sustainability criteria and indicators determined in order to measure the achievement of these goals. This is complemented by assessment of relevant social, financial, physical, natural and human capitals of the region and expert opinion used to generate feasible scenarios for the bioenergy interventions. A technology balance sheet is used to rapidly asses these potential options. To ensure that the potential options are viable in terms of the natural, financial, physical, social, and human capitals; a SUstainable Rural Energy Decision Support System tool (SURE-DSS) is applied to refine these options. Expert and stakeholder opinion is then used to decide on the most appropriate bioenergy option through the use of a participatory multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) approach. As part of a policy-making and long-term sustainability planning, a system dynamics (SD) modelling approach was then applied on the most suitable bioenergy intervention. The effectiveness of the bioenergy intervention in achieving sustainability also depends on feedback from management and monitoring that will take place upon approval and implementation.